Campaigners respond with concern to latest welfare proposals

May 27, 2010

Leading members of the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) today responded with concern to Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform proposals.

John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, and a leading member of SCoWR said;

“It is of real concern that Iain Duncan Smith seems to focus more on increasing conditions, threatening more sanctions and reassessing people onto lower levels of benefit, than on tackling low pay or allowing people to keep more of their benefits as they move into work. This seems less Big Society and more a Big Brother approach, tightening the grip of top down bureaucratic sanctions rather than supporting claimants from the bottom up.

"There is no question that we need to reform benefits and make work pay. But we know, and Iain Duncan Smith’s own Centre for Social Justice has made absolutely clear (see note below), that increasing conditions and cutting benefits does not get people into work. It is low pay, lack of decent jobs, unaffordable childcare and woefully inadequate benefit levels that trap people in poverty."

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, another leading member of the SCoWR coalition added;

“We agree that the time is ripe for a radical simplification of the benefits system. At the moment the system is so complex, people often don’t claim what they are entitled to and are frequently plunged into financial chaos when their circumstances change. We want to see the system simplified but only as long as that doesn’t result in financial losers, thereby increasing poverty and inequalities. Simplification can all too easily mean cuts by the back door. Benefits rates are already well below the UK Governments own definition of poverty and we will vigorously oppose any attempts to cut the already meager level of benefits which claimants receive. We want to see a simplified system which lifts everyone out of poverty and treats all with dignity and respect.”

Matt Lancashire, Social Policy Officer at Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), commented;

“We are really pleased at the response to the CAS “Unfit for Purpose” report on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The momentum really seems to be behind an urgent review of ESA and reform of the benefits system. The experts who designed the system are saying so, Cabinet Ministers are saying so, and we are saying so. We welcome the simplification of the benefits system as long as it isn’t implemented to cause misery and hardship for thousands of people who claim benefits in Scotland. We need a system that helps and supports people, not victimises them for being on benefits”

Notes for editors
  • See Dynamic Benefits, Executive Summary, p3 “ For many, the answer to unsustainable welfare bills is to introduce ever tighter rules for receipt of benefits, and to cut generosity for some claimants. However, this approach has never worked”.
  • The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR), a coalition of forty charities, faith groups, trade unions and anti-poverty campaigners. The SCoWR Manifesto can be found here.
  • The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform (SCoWR) coalition includes Action for Children, Capability Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, One Parent Families West of Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Inclusion Scotland, Oxfam, RNID, SCVO, Scottish Women’s Convention, The Poverty Alliance, Turning Point Scotland, and many more organisations and committed individuals.

For further comment please contact:

John Dickie, Head of CPAG in Scotland, on 0141 552 3656

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance, on 0141 353 0440

Matt Lancashire; Social Policy Officer, Citizens Advice Scotland on 0131 550 1062